Complain to AFP? Don’t waste
your time, report indicates

In a scathing report, the Commonwealth Ombudsman has lambasted the Australian Federal Police for its lack of commitment to a complaints system. He accuses the AFP of wasting information, exonerating its own officers, and taking forever to resolve matters.

Complain to AFP? Don’t waste

your time, report indicates

After three and a half years of trying to get the Australian Federal Police’s complaint handling systems right, “there are still significant areas of complaint management to be addressed,” the Ombudsman Allan Asher told parliament on 9 February 2011.

“Timeliness in resolving complaints has worsened since we last reported to Parliament. There has not been a great deal of progress in monitoring the implementation of changes in complaint procedures, or in documenting outcomes,” 

“The AFP needs to demonstrate how it is using the information which can be gleaned from complaints – an invaluable source of intelligence for improving training, systems and procedures. Responding to and communicating with complainants could also be improved.”

In a media release, Mr Asher points our that “The AFP has cleared itself of every complaint about excessive use of force made by a member of the public since the Commonwealth Ombudsman became responsible in January 2007 for reviewing the AFP’s complaint-handling activities.”

He also highlights that ACT Policing has an abysmal complaints record: making up about 12% of AFP numbers overall, it was responsible for 62% of complaints in one category.

Mr Asher outlined a culture within the AFP which:

  • took up to nearly two years to finalise some complaints;
  • where facts were in dispute, believed police officers over complainants as a first resort;
  • failed to take any account whatsoever of the record of individual police officers (in one case, the Ombudsman found an officer complained about had received 16 complaints against him in two years…his behaviour was so poor, apparently, that he been issued with a voice recorder so his sergeant could check up on him!)

Ombudsman Asher is so concerned at the lack of AFP progress around the complaints issue that he hints in the report that new legislation may be needed to rein in police behaviour.

He says he is not sure the the current regulatory review system is meeting its “…principal aim which is to implement a modern managerial approach to the work of AFP members; particularly in its response to complaints made about those members.”


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